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The End of Episodic Gaming at Telltale?

posted by RAnthonyMahan on - last edited - Viewed by 1.2K users

(DISCLAIMER: I do not work for Telltale, or anywhere else in the gaming industry. Everything I say here is pure speculation, so please don't take it as anything official. Kthx.)

There have been two pieces of Telltale-related news lately that interested me. I think it might be possible they're leading into something bigger.

The first is that Jurassic Park won't be released episodically (unless you're on the iPad). The game will still be divided into separate episodes, yes, but all of them will be released at once.

Now, I don't believe Telltale's doing this because they're tired of episodic gaming. If you recall, JP was originally going to be released in April for the PC, but in fall for consoles. Apparently Microsoft demanded every version be released at the same time, pushing the PC version back and forcing Telltale to develop all the episodes before they can be finished. Even if Telltale isn't doing this to avoid episodic gaming, though, the fact stands that they're making a full-length non-episodic game, and I'm sure they're taking advantage of the opportunity to test how people receive it.

The second is that, in addition to Telltale's previously announced publishing deal with Microsoft, they've signed similar deals with Nintendo and Sony. (Their previous publishing deal with Sony only allowed them to publish downloadable games, but now they can publish retail games too.) So if Telltale wanted to, they could give their games disc releases on all three consoles. They'd no longer have to deal with the constraints PSN/XBLA/WiiWare force on games. Not to mention that, as far as consoles go, retail games get more exposure than downloadable titles.

Now, I admire Telltale for having more success with the episodic format than any other developer's managed, but the fact is that episodic gaming carries a lot of inherent problems. The games have to be small (a big issue for an adventure game, since so much of the appeal lies in exploration!). The demanding release schedule means you either rush the episodes' development or fail to release them on time. It's next to impossible to pull off on consoles. If you're doing a more open-ended series, like The Walking Dead is supposed to be, it could be difficult implementing proper continuity between the episodes. (Look at all the reports of Marty getting called by the wrong alias in BttF, and that was just a single choice!) I get a feeling that some people at Telltale have been debating if it's worth sticking to episodic games.

So, as I said before, I suspect Telltale is treating Jurassic Park as a big experiment to see how making a game the normal way turns out for them. If it goes well...who knows what they'll decide in the future? I wouldn't be surprised if The Walking Dead ends up being Telltale's last episodic game. (And even then, it might only be episodic in the same way that Jurassic Park is.)

So...do you think Telltale should stick to episodic gaming or not? And do you think it's likely they'll make the switch? Discuss and whatnot.

82 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • I love episodic gaming. It's like Christmas for half a freaking year. I love the expectation, and the wait.

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    Blind Sniper Moderator

    I think that if Telltale were to abandon monthly episodic gaming, than the reason would be technical issues rather than an effect of debating the worth of episodic gaming. From several articles and interviews I have read about Telltale, I always hear about their fascination with the episodic structure and the fact that they specifically like making stories in small bits rather than a full story at once. That, and there is also the fact that many people see Telltale as the pioneers of episodic gaming in a sense so I highly doubt Telltale would so easily give up episodic games.

    Granted, however, I do think that abandoning the episodic model would have it's benefits, as various traits of the episodic games such as reusing character models for multiple characters, small locations, and a somewhat lack of depth compared to old adventure games would hopefully make way for better, more in depth games with more time in the oven so to speak. (I still do like the current model however, I'm just saying both have their ups and downs.)

  • Given that I only tend to buy Telltale's games sometime after they've released all the episodes (generally when it's on sale), I'm not really bothered either way. But it seems a shame that Microsoft forced them to change a practice that's been working so well for them (actually, I've not heard that before. Any chance of a link to back this up?).

    If I had to choose, I'd like them to continue the episodic route. It lets them incorporate feedback into later episodes (the new dialogue lines in Sam & Max for example, or getting LeChuck back) and makes the whole thing feel more epic having to wait for the conclusion of the cliffhangers, much like a TV show.

    But hey ho. We'll have to see.

  • I found the whole episodic concept amusing at first, but to be perfectly honest I prefer the normal approach to making adventure games. Episodic adventure-games is just too limited in my opinion. It feels more like 5 separate games rather than one coherent story; each episode tends to have its own mini-story that doesn't necessarily tie in that well with the game as a whole.
    You have small locations as opposed to a large game world to explore.
    You can't have multiple endings or a story that branches depending on the choices you make in-game.
    Non-episodic games make for larger games with more opportunities.

  • I only play the games after they've released all the episodes. I think for some content episodic is fine, especially the lesser known properties, but some deserve to epic. Sam and Max and especially Monkey Island need full game releases.

  • I hope not, at least for the PC versions anyway. I hope that these deals mean that the PC versions will come out first in episodic format then the consoles getting the retail release at the same time the final episode is released on PC.

    But stuff like this article has me a little concerned as I'm not sure if Microsoft are just really concerned with titles released first on the Playstation or if PC first releases are also part of it.

  • I don't really mind myself.

    Just as long as the pre-order period isn't too long, (as it would drive me crazy).

    I think being able to work on all episodes before they go live would benefit Telltale quite a bit.

    It means the storyline can be tweaked to be more coherent, bugs in the earlier episodes can be fixed, and maybe more dynamic things can be implemented!

  • I'd be happy if they did away with episodic games. But I doubt it'll happen entirely. They were quite adamant about that formula for a long time. Since the creation of the company. And they're still preaching it up. I just don't see it going away despite the signs.

  • Keep in mind that even their CSI games are episodic in nature, despite the retail only releases.

  • Truth be told, Jurassic Park is the biggest franchise Telltale is and will tackle, and would do well with a retail release. However, Walking Dead and Fables are both fairly niche, and King's Quest would do terribly in a retail marketplace.

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